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Women turned away from underfunded shelters: new national report

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OTTAWA — Women who are victims of violence are being turned away from shelters across Canada due to a chronic lack of resources and funding, according to two new national studies, including one by the House of Commons committee on the status of women.

The studies mark the first time shelters for female victims of violence have been studied specifically to determine the scope of services and supports provided by shelters and transition houses to women and children fleeing violence in Canada.

One in five shelters report they have not received funding increases in 10 years or more — a situation that is unsustainable, said Kaitlin Bardswich, communications and development co-ordinator for Women’s Shelters Canada, which led one of the studies.

“Shelters are not funded adequately, they’ve never really been funded adequately,” Bardswich said. “They’re essentially doing the same work year after year with less money, because things like rent and taxes and food costs are all increasing, but funding is not increasing.”

More than 400 shelters took part in that three-year study. Responses were received from shelters in every province, as well as from facilities in rural, northern and remote communities.

Shelters everywhere are taking in more women and children than they have beds, with four in 10 facilities reporting they are “almost always” full. 

Three-quarters of the shelters surveyed reported they have let women stay longer than provincial or territorial rules allow. This is especially common in cities and towns with housing shortages, where women fleeing violence in their homes might have nowhere else to go.

But extending stays for some women means others get turned away — a situation that is emotionally difficult for staff and potentially deadly for women who remain with abusive partners.

A woman is killed every two-and-a-half days in Canada, with more than half of the victims killed by current or former intimate partners, according to federal data.

“Some women might choose to become homeless, which is not a good situation, or they may couch-surf. But when they have children it makes sense to stay somewhere where they have a roof,” Bardswich said, noting the dangers that entails.

Statistics Canada does provide data on individuals who stay in shelters in Canada and on the number of shelter beds available to various populations, but no real study has previously been done on the state of the shelters themselves.

Women’s Shelters Canada found high rates of staff burnout, due to low wages and poor benefits. Employees who do remain are burdened with having to help raise funds to keep shelter doors open in addition to providing care and support to women.

Meanwhile, the average age of shelter buildings across Canada is now 45 years, with the vast majority of them in need of repairs. Fewer than half are able to afford those repairs, the study found.

Many of the facilities are not accessible for women with disabilities and a majority say supplying basic necessities, such as food and transportation, to their clients is a “major challenge.”

All of these findings are echoed in another report released Wednesday by the House of Commons committee on the status of women.

It included a list of 20 recommendations, including more funding for repairs, renovations and expansions of women’s shelters and transition houses. It also calls for more funding for on-reserve shelters serving Indigenous women and children and more resources for shelters to expand culturally sensitive services for Indigenous women as well as immigrants, non-binary and transgender women and women with disabilities.

“Fleeing an abusive relationship takes strength and courage, as the moments after women and children flee an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for them,” the committee report says. “It is therefore crucial that housing options and support services be available so that women and children fleeing abusive relationships have somewhere safe to go.”

Funding for shelters everywhere but First Nations reserves is principally a provincial responsibility, however, which is why services and capacity vary widely across the country. Major gaps exist, for example, between services available to victims of violence in urban areas compared to those in more remote communities.

That’s why both the status-of-women committee and Women’s Shelters Canada separately recommend a national plan on violence against women.

This could create a national standard of funding and services to address the current patchwork, Bardswich said.

The Trudeau government did create a national gender-based-violence strategy, but Bardswich said this only covers federal agencies.

“What we’re advocating for is a national action plan that involves the provinces and the territories and the federal government coming together to have a plan of action around domestic violence … it’s something the UN has said every country should have.”

The Liberals say they are committed to increasing resources for women’s shelters.

For example, on Thursday, Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef is to announce close to $1.5 million for Women’s Shelters Canada to increase its capacity and the capacity of the 14 provincial and territorial shelter associations it represents.

Money has also been earmarked as part of the national housing strategy to support the creation of at least 4,000 shelter spaces for survivors of family violence in addition to creating 100,000 new housing units and repairing 300,000 existing ones.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

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Minority Government passes Bill C10 on internet freedom. Opponents pleading with Senate to block it.

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Bill C 10 which is expected to fundamentally affect how Canadians experience the internet, has been hammered through the House of Commons.  At 1:30 AM Ottawa time, the minority Liberal Government with help from the BQ and the NDP were able to pass the bill.  In opposition were the federal Conservatives and lone Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.   The urgency to pass C 10 before an election call expected later this summer resulted in the Liberals actually shutting down debate at the committee level.  That’s only happened twice in the history of the country before now!  The Liberals also attempted to pass secret amendments which were caught by the Conservatives and ruled “out of order” by the House Speaker.

Why the rush?  Opponents are concerned the Liberals, BQ, and NDP are far more concerned with regulating social media use, than they are with boosting individual Canadians creating new content.  It appears the urgency has to do with giving themselves the ability to guide internet content, just in time for the federal election campaign.

OpenMedia.org, a group striving to keep the internet “open, affordable, and surveillance-free” calls the government’s bill “outrageously flawed”.  The group published an article called “What’s wrong with Bill C 10?”  which asks and answers 8 key questions surrounding C 10.  The article provides excellent background knowledge for Canadians concerned about the future of the internet.

OpenMedia says the goal of the bill is to expand “Canada’s Broadcasting Act to apply to all streaming audio or video content on the Internet, including Netflix, Spotify, Youtube, and other popular streaming services.”  Streaming services will be forced to make higher payments to the Canada Media Fund which would mean higher rates paid for Canadian users.  According to OpenMedia streaming services will charge higher Canadian specific fees, and may even avoid Canada altogether.

OpenMedia calls C 10 a “cash-grab for traditional broadcast industries” which actually does nothing to serve the new wave of content creators who could really use a boost on the international stage.  As a last ditch attempt to stop the bill, OpenMedia.org is urging Canadians to email the Senate right now to ask for a REAL democratic examination of Bill C-10.

Conservative critic Pierre Poilievre is especially concerned with the federal government giving itself the power to block unapproved ideas from popular content creators like himself, just in time for the next federal election. Surprisingly, and maybe most concerning of all, both OpenMedia and Pierre Poilievre point out the bill ‘DOESN’T ADDRESS WHAT CANADIAN CONTENT IS’.  The current definition of “Canadian Content” was last updated in 1984, more than a decade before the internet changed everything.

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Alberta

Loss of Brother to Addiction and Mental Illness Inspires Sister to Raise Money by Selling Face Masks.

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Starting June 10th, until midnight Sunday, June 13th customers across Canada can help raise funds for Mental Health Organizations in their own provinces by purchasing much needed luxury cotton face masks.

Jodee Prouse, from Sylvan Lake, Alberta, co-owner of Service Mask Supply (SMS) is the provider of one of Canada’s best-selling luxury 3-layer Cotton Face Masks. She announced today that they will be donating $1.00 from every mask purchase on June 10, 11, 12 and 13th to Mental Illness Programs and Organizations in communities across Canada. “We all look forward to when we no longer need to wear face masks,” says Jodee, “and we are getting really close. I am proud that we can provide a much-needed product and at the same time allow others the opportunity to come together to raise money for Mental Health in their own communities.”

SMS is excited to announce that for 4 days this week, $1.00 from every mask will be donated to different Mental Health Organizations across Canada. Customers can place their order online, each mask is $5.00, and will ship directly to their homes or businesses. Jodee is proud of her team and orders quickly ship the next business day, leaving from their warehouse in Alberta. All monies collected will go back into each province to where the order was shipped. As an example, Alberta portion will go back to Canadian Mental Health Association Alberta Division, Manitoba to Rainbow Resource Centre and so on. This allows every Canadian the opportunity to make a difference and take part.

From the beginning, SMS had an amazingly simple business model, originally supplying schools and oilfield companies: provide comfortable and affordable masks (each is only $5.00) with patterns that make people smile. Smile. It is what Jodee and her business partner son Ryan believes we need more of right now during these unprecedented times. “My son and I, at different times in our lives, have both struggled with anxiety and depression. We lost a much-loved member of our family when our brother/uncle lost his battle with mental illness and alcoholism when he took his own life in March of 2012. He was only 39. This helped solidify our commitment to helping to eliminate the shame and stigma surrounding mental health.”

Now more than ever we want to bring communities together. And remind people they are not alone.

SMS is proud to be celebrating over 17,000 customers across Canada this week. They know that much of their success has been driven by their passionate customers, repeat business and recommendations to family, friends, and co-workers. “It fills my heart to receive not only Facebook messages and emails daily on how much they love our masks,” says Jodee, “but also the heartfelt words where strangers feel comfortable and safe enough to share some of their own mental health or addiction challenges.”

SMS has over 150 unique colors and patterns with such unique designs as sunflowers, flamingo’s, tie dye, dog lover, pretty kitties, fishing lures, butterflies, hearts, breast cancer, yoga, fine wine, pride, cupcakes and many more. Great for work, play, indoors and outdoors too with sizes for the whole family.

Learn more visit: www.servicemasksupply.ca

For more information you can email [email protected]

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june, 2021

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